16 September 2015 | Lejink
All in the family
This three part ITV drama took some time to get started but once it warmed up, it took all its carefully tangled plot-strands and just about straightened them out by the end. Of course, the minute you see Ray Winstone in the title role and read the blurb about his being an ex-con, you immediately expect a routine hard-as-nails gangster-yarn. There is that about it of course but surprisingly Winstone's character isn't an invincible, inhumane tough-guy. No, our Jimmy is sensitive, protective, even vulnerable as he returns to a family welcome which is decidedly lukewarm, with his successful business-man son berating the example he has set to the younger family members, his daughter a nervous wreck, unable to control her own drug-taking absent daughter and worst of all, his long-suffering wife tells him she doesn't love him anymore and who's been dating a cop of all people while Jimmy's been inside. From this inauspicious beginning, it's a long way back for Jimmy, but by trying to at first re-connect with and clean-up the errant grand-daughter, gradually things start to come together again for him, although not without some violent episodes in between times.
After the first, rather slack, padded-out episode, I wondered from where, if anywhere, the actual main story was going to emerge. Things improved for the next two concluding episodes as Jimmy finds redemption and a sort of Pyrrhic victory over the forces conspiring against him, but it's a close run thing and, one suspects, ultimately unsatisfactory and unhelpful to him as he struggles to stay on the straight and narrow.
The programmes are well acted by the main acting group but it's obvious they are all meant to just orbit around Jimmy, requiring Winstone to add at least some shades of grey to his "any gun who had a heart" persona.
It wasn't perfect by any means, with a lot of coincidences and unlikely sequences which jarred the narrative, but I've liked Winstone ever since he was Will Scarlett in the Robin The Hooded Man TV series of the 80's and he doesn't let me down here, skilfully avoiding (if sometimes only just) giving us a parody of his "diamond-hard Cockney geezer" persona.
Rather like Jimmy himself, this three-parter wasn't exactly lovable, but I'm glad I hung onto the end to see him at least come to terms with his past and come out the other end with his family restored, his wife back in his corner and his self-respect restored, although the inconclusive ending leaves you wondering just how this old lag will spend his salad days in the future without actually doing time again.